I loved this book! A collection of stories of love and longing edited by Jeffery Eugenides (of Virgin Suicides and Middlesex fame) at the behest of Dave Eggers (but it’s not the usual Eggers-McSweeney’s-y fare), these stories hail from across the board. I picked it up because some of my personal favorite writers are included (Joyce, Chekhov, Nabokov, Kundera), as well as canonical ones I had heretofore neglected (Maupassant, Faulkner, Carver), but it was a few stories by unknowns (unknown to me, at least) that really did me in. From Harold Brodkey’s beautiful bawdy tribute to young love and first orgasms to Deborah Eisenberg’s quietly crushing realization that our imperfect partners are sometimes all we have to cling to, the stories are about yearning and the unattainable. The title of the collection comes from Catullus’s coy Lesbia, who ignores his wooing in favor of playing with a beloved pet bird. When the bird dies, Catullus thinks he will finally have her attention, only to find that she’s now to preoccupied with grieving. In each of these twenty-six stories, there is either a sparrow, or the sparrow is dead.
From the introduction: A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims- these are lucky eventualities but they aren’t love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart… It is perhaps only in reading a love story (or in writing one) that we can simultaneously partake of the ecstasy and agony of being in love without paying a crippling emotional price. I offer this book, then, as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer.”
Eugenides is the editor of this collection of short stories about love, appropriate enough to this time of year. Based on his selection of stories, he defines love as "desire for the unattainable thing." This is not an anthology of silly love songs because, sorry Paul, Mr. Eugenides seems to think we have had enough of those. Rather in each of these stories, the partner desired, or the relationship desired with that partner, is always just out of reach; … more